CARL MARTIN ÖHMANN
The first time I ever heard of Carl Martin Öhman (identified as Carl Martin "Oehmann" by Preiser) was his sterling participation in the historic performance of Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde from a concert broadcast October 5, 1939, with Kerstin Thorborg, the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra and conductor Carl Schuricht. His performance was remarkabletotal vocal control of the high-lying part, plus sufficient stamina and power to ride over the orchestra. Now we have this intriguing collection of Öhmann in a variety of roles, which shows his many strengthsas well as deficiencies.
Ohmann was one of several outstanding Scandinavian tenors to be given high acclaim in Germany (others included Lauritz Melchior, Torsten Ralf and Set Svanholm). Born in Sweden in 1887, he studied piano, organ and music theory before taking up singing. He developed quickly, making his opera debut in 1917. His first international success was at the Metropolitan Opera in 1924 when he sang in the first American performance of Janacek's Jenufa. That season he also appeared as Samson, but for whatever reason he was not reengaged. Until 1937 he was one of the most popular tenors in both Berlin and Vienna. His appearances in Lohengrin, Die Walküre and Die Meistersinger were highly touted, particularly the latter. He retired from the opera stage in 1937 but continued to give concerts; his final performance was the Amsterdam Mahler performance mentioned above. He continued teaching in Stockholm until his death in 1967; his pupils included Nicolai Gedda and Marti Talvela.
Recordings on this CD range from 1923 through 1929. Wagner fares best, very well, indeed. Öhmann's voice has a ring and control seldom heard during the past two decades of Wagner performances; there is no question of his commitment to the music. But elsewhere he disappoints. Arias from Carmen and La Muette de Portici, sung in French, are stilted; arias from Aida and Andrea Chenier, sung in German, are awkward, with a particularly disconcerting end to the Verdi: "Holde Aida" (Celeste Aida). Arias from Pagliacci, Othello, Turandot, La Boheme, Andrea Chenier and La Gioconda, all sung in Italian, hardly represent Öhmann at his besthe sounds decidedly uncomfortable. Frankly, I'm surprised these recordings were issued, particularly "Keiner schlafe" (Nessun Dorma) with its clipped final note. This is one of the three tracks conducted by George Szell. A stickler for perfection, he must have cringed during this session. It isn't thatÖhmann isn't a fine singerrepertory must be right for him, and most of what is on this CD isn't, although it is good to have mementos of his Wagner.
R.E.B. (Dec. 2000)